My flight to Cusco from Lima was delayed by an hour and a half because of heavy fog in Cusco. Bummer. It was unfortunate that all the passengers were already seated in the plane when the pilot made the announcement of the delay. When we finally took off, something seemed strange as our 45 to 50 minute plane ride didn’t seem to end. Instead, the pilot came on the speakers AGAIN and made another freakin’ announcement saying that WE MUST TURN BACK TO LIMA! WTF. OMG. It so happened that the plane was hovering near Cusco too long waiting for the fog to clear that it didn’t have enough fuel to land and then head back to Lima. But our plane specifically fueled before leaving Cusco so I had no idea how this could happen, especially since it was such a short flight duration. Idiots involved, perhaps? So we landed back in Lima and then we had to take another flight to Cusco about two hours later. At this point I was stressed out about my ride that was supposed to be waiting for me in Cusco to take me to the volunteer center. The instructions I was given was complex for me to get there on my own. Plus, I was surprised that English wasn’t as common in Peru as it was in other countries. My bad. So when I called my volunteer coordinator telling her of my delay, I was so ecstatic that she was willing to pick me up at the airport (the instuctions from the volunteer organization indicated that I would have to find my own way should I miss my scheduled ride). Whew. I felt much better.
When the friendly woman flagged me down at the airport, I hurried along to meet her. We hugged each other (surprisingly) and I felt completely at home. Her name was Rocio, and I could see and feel the kindness in her eyes. Her voice was a comfort to me so it seemed like a quick ride to the place I would be staying at. In a few minutes we were at a blue door that allowed us into the courtyard of the home that I would be volunteering at for a week. The property was much bigger than I imagined with a court for playing basketball or soccer along with a few cottage-like rooms on the grounds. I was shown to my room which was at the top of the stairs, and I was so very glad that Rocio accomodated my request of having my own room. (Volunteers are supposed to have roommates to conserve resources). There were four beds and a small bathroom all to myself. The accomodations were very basic and modest, just like we were all told beforehand, so there was nothing for me to look at. There was no closet to hang my clothes, only drawers, so I just decided to keep all my clothes in my luggage and head downstairs.
When I came back down, the three other volunteers were back from their outing. There were two guys from Texas and one girl from Canada, and I was disappointed in the low number as I was told there would be at least seven volunteers. It was already dinner time so I started drinking the coca tea right away to prepare for the altitude sickness that I might experience as Cusco is about 11,000 ft above sea level. I didn’t feel any different but by the end of our dinner I felt…strange. I can’t put into words. When I took the stairs to my room, I was absolutely dizzy and completely out of breath. A couple flights of stairs took the wind out of me, so that’s when I realized I was experiencing the symptoms of altitude sickness. Good thing I was going to bed. When I turned on the bathroom sink to wash my hands, the water temperature was so frigid that it hurt my hands. The feeling reminded me of the times when I would dunk my hand in the icy cooler when trying to grab a drink. There was no way in hell that I could wash my face with that temperature. The room was very cold and I was very cold. I was pissed off at this point. There was no hot water, we were warned, but the fact that the water was so frigid that I couldn’t even wash my hands got me really angry. I was too damn tired to inquire about the water temperature (thinking that it was somehow a mistake but knowing that it’s not) so for the first time since my college days, I went to bed without washing my face. I was so uncomfortable about this but there was no way in hell that I was going to wash my face in icy water while my body was already cold. In addition, the room was freezing, and it took a long time for me to fall asleep because of the cold. Why the hell did I want to volunteer??? Again, I felt so stupid and angry that I spent money to feel so god damn miserable. Yes, I was volunteering but I don’t think washing my hands and face in warm water was too much to ask for. The only thing that kept me from bolting out the door was the thought of Machu Picchu. In five days I would be experiencing one of the Seven Wonders of the World! Somehow this made my situation more bearable, and somehow with my complete discomfort and anger, I managed to fall asleep…
The view at Cusco airport